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New year, new you! Why massage should be a part of your New Year's resolution!

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Happy New Year!

“Overall, how have you felt this past year?”
As much as we all love the time with friends and family, all the delicious food, and shiney new gifts, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can take a toll on anyone. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to step back and refocus on self improvement. Traditionally, we attempt this through resolutions. Unfortunately, many of the goals we set for ourselves are a lot easier said than done. Making the focus of the resolution a set number (lose 20 pounds, run a half marathon, get more rest so I can be more productive at work and earn a 10% raise) puts too much pressure on you and ultimately makes the goal overwhelming and unobtainable. I want you to start thinking of a resolution that can help you manage your stress levels, ease any body aches, give you more energy, and help you recover from what life will throw at you this year. Of course I am talking about massage therapy!

“Cortisol=Bad Dopamine and Serotonin=Good”
Massage therapy naturally fights the stress hormone cortisol while promoting the production of the “feel good” hormones, dopamine and serotonin. Too much cortisol can cause sleep problems and a depressed immune response, which can lead to you catching that bug that’s been going around. According to studies at the University of Miami School of Medicine, after several weeks of regular massage, subject’s cortisol levels decreased by nearly one-third. Serotonin is what we have to thank for feelings of contentment, satisfaction, and well-being. Dopamine comes in handy if you want to stay alert and concentrate on mental tasks. This is why we feel so happy and motivated after a massage!

“What could I have done to make this hurt?”
As a massage therapist, this is probably one of the most common questions I am asked while working on a patient. However, one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is helping my clients regain the ability to live their life unhindered by pain. Eliminating chronic pain is a huge step towards improving your quality of life. Fibromyalgia and chronic myofascial pain syndrome (CMPS) are two examples of conditions massage therapy can help manage. Fibromyalgia is diagnosed when a minimum of 11 out of 18 tender points are active with pain to the touch. The areas where pain is most common is the neck and lower back. Additional symptoms such as feelings of exhaustion and musculoskeletal pain accompany the acute tender points. CMPS symptoms present after trauma or injury. Prolonged, deep aching trigger points are what present. Car accidents and jobs with repetitive motions are common triggers. A diagnosis is made when a person has had pain for six months or more. Remember our buddy serotonin? In addition to helping us feel good, it is also a natural pain reducer. Massage helps increase deep sleep and that is when your body repairs and renews tissues and nerve cells. That is a very important step in healing what is causing you pain. If muscles and joints stay inactive for too long, they can start to deteriorate. Massage will improve circulation, maintain flexibility, and reduce stiffness. All three will move you in the direction of managing your pain.

“Just five more minutes”
If you are looking for one more reason to try and rid yourself of cortisol, I’m going to tell you how it is robbing you of precious sleep and has an adverse affect on your weight. High cortisol levels from stress and cause you to toss and turn at night. If you are getting six or less hours of sleep a night, you’re not just feeling a little sleepy, it can actually affect your health. Several studies have shown that increased cortisol levels are also connected to increased hunger, problems with blood sugar, high levels of abdominal fat, fatigue, depression and even shorter life spans.
Hours, even days, after a massage session, you carry the benefits of reduced stress and pain levels, therefore bringing the body into a state of relaxation. The effects of massage become longer lasting the more frequently you practice. By practicing regular massage therapy, you can reach a state of deep, healing sleep. Deep sleep will improve your energy levels and reduce fatigue. If you put down the coffee and sugar snack when you feel tired and book a massage appointment instead, you will stay off the rollercoaster of energy highs and lows throughout the day as the caffeine and sugar buzz wear off.

“Journey toward better health”
In short, regular massage helps us to feel better and function more efficiently. For many years, massage was thought of just a fancy way to pamper yourself. Today, the practice is regarded as so much more than that. Society as a whole is approaching everything with a much more holistic view. Gone are the days of giving “a pill for every ill”. People are much more interested in being proactive with their health. I feel it is very safe to say that massage is the perfect compliment to to a healthy lifestyle.

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